The knock against Gonzaga this season has been its lack of inside scoring.
Sunny Greinacher took that criticism as a personal challenge Tuesday night and gave the Bulldogs a different look.
Greinacher, a sophomore, scored a career-high 16 points and added team highs of eight rebounds and three steals as Gonzaga (7-2) pulled away from Eastern Washington 65-50 in nonconference women’s basketball at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Greinacher said she and GU’s other post players have heard fans’ grumbling loud and clear.
“It’s hard to hear, but we have to take it as a challenge for ourselves to get better personally,” said the 6-foot-4 forward from Essen, Germany, whose previous career high had been 14 points against San Francisco last season. “So I think in the long run that it can help us to hear that.”
GU scored 18 of its first 24 points in the paint and finished with 36 points inside. In their previous eight games, the Bulldogs averaged 22 of their 63 points in the paint.
“That’s the area I think we’ve got the most growth potential,” GU coach Kelly Graves said. “We’re not going to beat anybody of significance unless we can have an inside presence.”
The Bulldogs defeated the Eagles (2-5) for the ninth consecutive time, but this outcome was much different from last season, when GU rallied in the final minute for a 75-69 win.
GU jumped ahead 6-0 and was never threatened after an 8-0 run gave it a 28-16 lead with 8 minutes, 16 seconds left in the first half. Eastern never came closer than eight points after that.
“I didn’t think our execution was great offensively,” EWU coach Wendy Schuller said. “We had a couple of kids that I thought stepped up and played well for us, but we didn’t take very good care of the ball and I was disappointed that we weren’t able to do more with our post play.”
The Bulldogs made a change to their starting lineup, calling on 6-5 freshman Shelby Cheslek in place of junior Stephanie Golden. Cheslek had eight points on 3-for-4 shooting from the floor and six rebounds.
“I think I’m going to keep changing (the lineup) until we find something we like,” Graves said. “Maybe it helped. Shelby’s so tall that you can get her the basketball a little bit easier.”
Junior guard Aubrey Ashenfelter kept the Eagles in the game in the first half, scoring 11 of her season-high 13 points.
EWU sophomore guard Lexie Nelson scored 16 of her game-best 19 points in the second half.
But Eastern committed 24 turnovers, 14 more than Gonzaga, and was outrebounded 24-11 on the offensive end.
“We got basically hit in the face Sunday,” Greinacher said of GU’s 69-41 loss to No. 1-ranked Stanford, when the Bulldogs had just 16 points in the paint. “But that’s OK. Stanford deserves to be the No. 1 team in the nation.”